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Great race mare died 31 years ago

March 12, 2008

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Wednesday, March 12, marked the 31st anniversary of the death of Tarport Hap, the world champion pacing mare from the first crop by Most Happy Fella who succumbed to a ruptured abdominal artery while racing in the Open Pace at the Meadowlands.


Tarport Hap was making a move to the front of the five-horse field on that Saturday night in 1977 when she mad a break nearing the quarter pole, wobbled to the outside of the track and collapsed. Driver Ben Webster and emergency help tried to revive the 5-year-old mare, but to no avail.


Tarport Hap was making her 10th start of the year when she died. She had won eight of her nine previous starts that year and already had $105,750 in earnings. She passed away with 55 wins in 68 career starts, total earnings of $688,664 and a lifetime mark of 1:56.3f taken as a 4 year old. At the time, her career earnings were second only to Handle With Care who had $809,689 in lifetime earnings.


Tarport Hap’s racing career was highlighted by her great battles with Silk Stockings--another daughter of Most Happy Fella—in the rich New York Sire Stakes. They each won four of nine encounters their freshman season and Tarport Hap won five of their 10 outings their sophomore season.


Tarport Hap won 20 races in each of her first two seasons and her freshman earnings of $150,051 was a record at the time. Yet, she did not win a divisional championship until she was named the Older Pacing Mare of the year in 1977, the year she died.


At four she set an all-age record for fillies and mares on a half-mile track with a 1:57 performance at Roosevelt Raceway, and her career mark of 1:56.3f at Blue Bonnets was a world record at the time. She raced in the open ranks at four and five, against the best of both sexes, including Rambling Willie, Shirley’s Beau and Handle With Care.


She was trained and driven her first two season by later Hall of Famer Delvin Miller. In her final season she raced for trainer Buddy Regan, driver Ben Webster and caretaker Linda Toscano.


Tarport Hap was the third foal from the great broodmare Tarport Cheer, dam of such other notables as Tyler B and Cheery Hello. She was bred by Hugh Grant who raced her through her freshman season and sold her to Alan Leavitt and Bill Rosenburg late in her 3-year-old year.


Tarport Hap is buried in Paddock Park at the Meadowlands where each July a race for  3-year-old filly pacers is held in her memory.

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